Competitive capabilities Featured

8:00pm EDT October 25, 2006
Just like sports, businesses need to know and understand their competition as well as be able to assess their own winning strategies. And like sports, if you don’t have a game plan, you’ll get your butt kicked. Unless of course, you have a wizard on staff — in which case you can keep conjuring results out of thin air. Competition is not only between businesses that offer the same product or service; it far exceeds your first level direct competition and extends to emerging ground-breaking businesses.

Producing results
Stop beating yourself at your own game. Many of you monitor your competitors for the wrong reasons. You see what they do. You do something similar or try to outsmart them with the same rhetoric. Take the furniture industry or the automotive industry — even the office product industry; in fact, take any industry. Line up all of the competing ads and you can’t tell one ad from the next. There is absolutely nothing distinctive about them. There is no apparent competitive advantage. I call it “garbage-in-garbage-out” syndrome. If you find yourself considering such look alike messaging, make a u-turn and run like hell the other way.

Extensive research is involved in the process of understanding your audience. Don’t be afraid to get into the minds of customers to get the real deal; what influences their buying power and why do they choose one product or service over another? Through surveys, focus groups and other research components, your company can identify the wants and needs of current, potential and former customers. Then re-evaluate your strategies. After researching your customers’ opinions, you will be able to examine what your business should do to improve poor business practices or even create new strategies to focus on your target market.

Competitive awareness
Part of winning the game is understanding the players. Yes, customers are the voice of our businesses; however you also need to take note of your surroundings and be aware of what current and future competitors are up to. This will help you assess your business strategies and get a better grasp on how the industry is evolving. A basic method of examining the industry is simply identifying what in your market can threaten your company’s position. Find out who is out there in the industry offering the same product or service as you do. How is it different from your product or service? Who is offering a substitute product or service? Simply knowing your competitors and potential competitors enables you to find innovative ways to stay on top. Understand how your business fits into the whole scheme of things by asking yourself, what are my competitive advantages and how do I keep my competitive edge?

Ongoing process
It is extremely important to commit to continuous research and analysis of your customers’ buying behavior to monitor your success and/or failure relative to your competitors. It’s not a one shot deal. You don’t conduct the research one time and continue to use the same results from survey three, five or 10 years ago, and applying it to today’s market. Ongoing research is essential to keep up with the competition, the changes in the market and the buying trends. Companies, products and consumer behavior change. Products evolve, and it’s up to you to make sure that you are aware of all of the trends and how your business fits into the evolving industry.

A company should take stock of where they are in the industry and be able to identify how or if they have improved over the past year; what can they do to increase success; how they rank among their competitors; are they catering to their target audience, and how are they received by their customers? Taking time to analyze your business successes and failures will help your company grow far beyond your competition. Constant awareness and action breeds success and you won’t have to hire a wizard to be successful.

MALCOLM A. TEASDALE is the principle and “Big Idea Catalyst” of Teasdale Worldwide, a strategic marketing firm headquartered in Tampa. Reach him at mat@ScreaminEyes.com. To obtain a new direction, increase revenue, and the expertise to facilitate customers’ UBAs, call Kathi Kasel at (813) 868-1520 or e-mail Kathi@MarketingofDistinction.com. To view additional articles, register at www.MalcolmOutLoud.com.